Like many games on the Xbox Live Arcade, nostalgia plays an important role on whether or not people purchase a game that’s released. Bubble Bobble is no different. Originally released in 1986, Bubble Bobble holds special memories for me. It was the first video game I ever played, and I used to play it with my Nana all the time when I was really young. It was my first adventure into Co-op, and it’s a game I’ve always had in my collection. I’ve honestly played through it more times than I can remember. Naturally, hearing that it was coming out made me really excited, to the point where I stayed up until it was released early Wednesday morning. I probably should have gotten a little extra sleep instead.
For those who have never played Bubble Bobble, the concept is simple. You play as Bub or Bob, depending on which player you are, and the whole purpose is to clear the screen of enemies. To kill the enemies you have to trap them inside of the bubbles that your character can shoot. After you trap them you have to jump on the bubble, or into it to pop them. You also have the ability to shoot bubbles that you can bounce off of to reach other parts of a level. After you kill an enemy they turn into food and other items that you can pick up for points. That’s really all there is to it. Weirdly enough, it’s extremely addicting, like most old school games. Simplicity is sometimes a wonderful thing, and this is a perfect example. The game takes place over 100 levels, with a good difficulty curve and great level design.
With the Xbox Live Arcade version, Taito decided to make the graphics more modern, and changed the look to be a bit more 3D. They aren’t great, and the sprites are much better, but it doesn’t detract from the game in any way. What does take away from Bubble Bobble Neo are the weird gameplay changes. For one, you can no longer blow a bubble in a very small space and use it to bounce out of said space. This is extremely frustrating in some areas, and on one level the space you are in is just big enough to allow it, but it takes perfect timing and lots of patience. They also removed the ability to go from the top of the screen to the bottom by bouncing on the bubbles that are at the top with you. This cancause you to get stuck at the top of some levels, with no way out until you die. It doesn’t make any sense.
Also included with the port of the original is the all new Arrange mode. Arrange mode is 100 brand new levels of Bubble Bobble that can be played with up to four players. The level designs are a bit more complicated, and teamwork is still as essential as it always has been. Being able to play with four people is a blast, and is something that would have been a neat addition to the original game, but it doesn’t suffer without it. What Bubble Bobble Neo does suffer from, however, is the lack of online play. Yes, I know back in the day it wasn’t important, but as an updated release I feel like it should be mandatory for it to be included. It will be a deal breaker for quite a few people, and unless you have someone within your area to play with, it’s just not as fun playing it alone.
Bubble Bobble Neo is still a great retro remake despite some of the confusing choices of things to not include. The core gameplay still holds up today, and is just as fun if you have somebody to play with. The new levels are a great addition for old fans, and are quite the incentive to pick this up. Nostalgia is going to be a deal breaker for some, and the lack of online play will be the deal breaker for others. It’s hard for me to recommend this game to someone who has never played it, but fans of the original should absolutely give it a shot.
+ Game has held up well over time, and is still a lot of fun.
+ Arrange Mode adds 100 new levels that are playable with four people.
+ Sure to bring back memories for old fans
- No way to convert to old graphics, and music has also been updated… not for the better
- Some weird gameplay changes from the original that make some levels more frustrating than necessary.
- No online play
Grade - C